Planes, Trains And Taxicabs –
The Duty Of Safe Carriage!
The California Civil Code provides that “A carrier of persons for a reward [you bought a ticket] must use the utmost care and diligence for their safe carriage [got you there safely], and must provide everything necessary for that purpose and must exercise to that end a reasonable degree of skill.”
Citing this statute, Mary, age 57, commenced a legal action against the Luxor Cab Co., a company in San Francisco, because of her claim that the cab company exercised rather lackluster care and diligence in getting her to her destination safely.
Mary, in need of transportation to a dentist for an appointment, hailed a cab and gave the driver the address of the dental clinic. The driver, however, passed the street upon which the dental clinic was located by approximately two blocks. The driver complained about a power outage which was apparently affecting the traffic lights and commented that “he was in a hurry to get to his coffee shop and wait out the power outage.” The driver told Mary, at least twice, “to get out.” Mary paid the driver the fare and left the car, “which then sped off.”
Before you rush to conclude that the two block walk is not a matter about which a reasonable person would complain, consider the passenger’s circumstances. This episode occurred in 1998. At the time, Mary is reported to have suffered from diabetes since 1978. As a consequence of the diabetes, Mary experienced
“kidney failure requiring dialysis, diabetic neuropathy causing numbness and pain in her limbs and body, carpal tunnel syndrome, and depression requiring therapy. The dialysis treatments she received in 1997 and 1998 caused fatigue and stabbing shoulder pain, and made her bones brittle. Because she was physically unstable and suffered dizzy spells that caused falls, [Mary] needed a cane to stand or walk.”
When Mary first entered the taxicab,
“she entered the cab in an elaborate manner, backing onto the seat, pulling her legs into the car, and using her hands to lift her left leg into the cab.”
After the driver told her to get out of the cab, at some point, Mary began crying and begged the driver to take her the remaining two blocks. The driver refused and again told her “to get out.”
After exiting the cab, Mary felt she had no choice but to continue on foot for her appointment. One block of the trip was entirely uphill. Mary would apparently walk a few feet and stop, walk a few more feet and stop, and repeat this process. At some point, “she ‘tilted’ and fell backwards to her left onto the sidewalk, skinning her left knee and fracturing her hip.”
Citing the above section of the Civil Code, the court noted that the taxicab, as a common carrier, has the duty to deliver the passenger to his or her destination and into a relatively safe place.
The court concludes that a common carrier, such as a taxicab,
“that ejects a passenger at a place other than the designated destination and in doing so subjects the passenger to reasonably foreseeable injury, violates a common carrier’s affirmative duty to prevent harm to its passengers.”
The court notes that Mary
“was not only visibly disabled and distraught at the prospect of having to walk two blocks and uphill, but asserts that she explained to the driver in detail the physical afflictions that provided the reasonable basis of her fear of injury.”
In another action, involving air travel, a passenger alleged that she was injured when another passenger’s carry-on bag hit her on the head while the other passenger was attempting to store the bag in an overhead bin.
The plaintiff boarded a Delta flight at about 6:30 a.m., took an aisle seat and fell asleep. She woke, however, when luggage struck her head.
Although federal law preempts [prevails over] state law, in many areas regarding airline travel, the court concluded that certain claims pertaining to airlines are not preempted, and held that she could proceed under California’s common carrier standard as set forth in the above section of the California Civil Code.
The court concluded that the plaintiff could proceed to trial, the plaintiff having argued that the other passenger
“was not provided with any assistance [by Delta] in storing her carry-on bag, the luggage previously stored in the overhead bin was stored in such a way (or was of such a size) that it slipped when the bin was opened, and that those two facts meant that [the other passenger] had to prevent that bag from falling while hoisting her own bag . . . .”
The moral of this story? The failure of a plane, train or taxicab employee to exercise common sense and behave courteously can violate state law!